In the previous tutorial, we saw that it is very simple to install Raspbian on a Raspberry Pi (or RPi Zero W) without the need for a keyboard and a screen. You may have wondered what well serve this small three-pin connector on the board. Well, it’s a connector that makes it possible to establish a serial link. In this tutorial, we’ll see how to use it to install Armbian. This method works on all Orange Pi models but also on all Linux distributions. For this tutorial, we will install Armbian on an Orange Pi Lite. You will need a serial to USB converter (also known as a FTDI cable), some Dupont jumper, a Windows PC, and Putty software (or equivalent on MacOS or Linux). You can also use a Mac or Linux PC without any additional software with the screen command.
|5V/3000mA power supply|
|SD board Class 10, 8GB minimum|
|USB-Serie FTDI converter|
|3x Jumper Dupont wires (back, yellow, orange)|
|PC or Windows laptop|
Recover Armbian image for your Orange Pi
Start by retrieving the Armbian image that matches your model. For Orange Pi Lite for example, the server version of the desktop is sufficient. It will be possible to add an XFCE graphical desktop later by following this tutorial.
Unpack the 7Z archive. On macOS you can use The Unarchiver. On Windows, you can use 7-Zip.
Preparing the SD board with Etcher
Download and install the resin.io Etcher software that is right for your operating system (macOS, Windows, Linux) here. Insert the minimum 8GB SD board (preferably class 10) into the drive. Start Etcher. Press Select image and specify the path to the ZIP file you just downloaded. The SD board is automatically selected by Etcher. If not, specify the path by clicking Select Drive. Start installing the files on the SD board by pressing Flash! At the end of the installation, the SD board is automatically ejected from the player.
Wire the serial connection
Using Dupont jumpers, wire the serial link like this.
Some cables do not have a cue. You can use the official FTDI chip site to find the location that matches your converter.
Invert the RX / TX cables on the FTDI converter side.
Finally, plug the USB-to-serial converter into the USB port of your computer
Start serial communication with Putty
Open Microsoft PowerShell and run the mode command to list all Serial devices connected to the PC. Here, the FTDI converter is connected to COM11.
Download and install Putty by going to the official project site. There is also a version that does not require any installation (alternative). Start Putty and check the option serie. In the Serial line field, enter the COM port (here COM11). Specify a speed of 115200 baud in the Speed field. Finally click Open.
Putty now listens to messages from the OPI.
On macOS, Linux or a Raspberry Pi!
Open the Terminal and run the ls /dev/tty* command to find the FDTI converter. On my Mac, it can be found on /dev/tty.usbserial-A1048DR2
We will use the screen command which will allow us to communicate with the Orange Pi via the serial port as with Putty under Windows. It simply passes two parameters:
- The name of the device you want to connect to. here /dev/tty.usbserial-A1048DR2
- speed: 11500 baud
screen /dev/tty.usbserial-A1048DR2 115200
To stop screen, use the combination CTRL + A.
Startup Orange Pi
Insert the SD board into the drive and turn on the OPI using the start button on the side of the board.
A few seconds after the start, the first messages appear in the Putty window. On macOS or Linux, you will get exactly the same thing.
When the Orange Pi is turned on, nothing appears in the Putty or Screen window. Here are the main causes of malfunction:
- Check that the wiring is correct. RX and TX must be crossed.
- Verify that the driver for the USB-to-serial FTDI converter is installed correctly. On Windows, open the Control Panel and then Device Manager. If macOS or Linux, run the ls / dev / tty * command to verify that it is present
- Change USB port (yes, it can help)
- Disconnect the HDMI video output
- Disconnect and reset the OPI
- Use comments to indicate another solution: idea:
Identifying and creating the user account
At the end of the startup, Armbian suggests you to identify yourself. Identify yourself with the root user and the default password 1234. Armbian suggests that you immediately change the default password.
- Enter the current password: 1234
- Enter your new password. At least 8 characters and composed of numbers and letters. Ideally at least one special character
- Enter the password again to confirm it
Then, Armbian asks you to create a user account that is better to use on a daily basis for security
- Enter the username
- Enter the password
- Validate the password by entering it a second time
- Finally, indicate some optional information
Finally, Armbian proposes to modify the display resolution using the h3disp tool. Accept, especially if you plug the Orange Pi into a computer monitor.
Here are all the resolutions supported by the board
480i use "-m 480i" or "-m 0" 576i use "-m 576i" or "-m 1" 480p use "-m 480p" or "-m 2" 576p use "-m 576p" or "-m 3" 720p50 use "-m 720p50" or "-m 4" 720p60 use "-m 720p60" or "-m 5" 1080i50 use "-m 1080i50" or "-m 6" 1080i60 use "-m 1080i60" or "-m 7" 1080p24 use "-m 1080p24" or "-m 8" 1080p50 use "-m 1080p50" or "-m 9" 1080p60 use "-m 1080p60" or "-m 10" 1080p25 use "-m 1080p25" or "-m 11" 1080p30 use "-m 1080p30" or "-m 12" 1080p24_3d use "-m 1080p24_3d" or "-m 13" 720p50_3d use "-m 720p50_3d" or "-m 14" 720p60_3d use "-m 720p60_3d" or "-m 15" 1080p24_3d use "-m 1080p24_3d" or "-m 23" 720p50_3d use "-m 720p50_3d" or "-m 24" 720p60_3d use "-m 720p60_3d" or "-m 25" 1080p25 use "-m 1080p25" or "-m 26" 1080p30 use "-m 1080p30" or "-m 27" 4kp30 use "-m 4kp30" or "-m 28" 4kp25 use "-m 4kp25" or "-m 29" 800x480 use "-m 800x480" or "-m 31" 1024x768 use "-m 1024x768" or "-m 32" 1280x1024 use "-m 1280x1024" or "-m 33" 1360x768 use "-m 1360x768" or "-m 34" 1440x900 use "-m 1440x900" or "-m 35" 1680x1050 use "-m 1680x1050" or "-m 36"
The desired format is indicated to the command. Either in the explicit format, for example -m 1280×1024, or by the number – m 33. If you are using an HDMI to DVI converter, you must specify it with the -d parameter, for example
h3disp -m 33 -d
Configuring WiFi with armbian-config
Armbian now comes with a configuration tool similar to raspi-config on Raspbian for the Raspberry Pi called armbian-config (discussed in detail in this article). Launch the tool then go to the WiFi option. Select the network and enter the password. Your Orange Pi is connected to the network!
Configure the keyboard in your language
To change the keyboard, you must be logged in as root. If this is not the case, run
Now run the following command.
If you do not find your keyboard type in the list, choose Generic 105-Key
Choose your keyboard and restart with the sudo reboot command to activate the changes.
All the steps in this tutorial may seem long and tedious but it is not. It is actually very simple. When you install Armbian with this method you will have a hard time doing it differently. Here is the proof by the image!
- Install Home Assistant (HASS) on an Orange Pi running under Armbian
- IoT development based on Orange Pi, Arduino (Firmata), Nodejs, Blynk and Johnny-Five
- Blynk + Node.js + Johnny-Five: drive a Pan-Tilt PTZ SG90 kit on Orange Pi with an Arduino / Firmata
- Start programming with Node Js and Johnny-Five: IoT and robotics based on Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Orange Pi
- Orange Pi: test of the OPI.GPIO package for Node-Red (node-red-contrib-opi-gpio)
- Orange Pi (Armbian): replace the GPIO by an Arduino/Firmata, Node-RED and Johnny-Five